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Friday, February 5, 2016

2015 Talle Faculty Research Awards

Congratulations to the first round of Talle Faculty Research Award winners. Eight faculty members from the arts, humanities, and social sciences are recipients of this new research award.

Professor Lisa Channer (theatre arts & dance) for Dancing on the Edge
“With this project I will help present a major new work of bilingual theatre to the public that adds to current discourse on Russian American relations politically, economically and culturally through an artistic product that is interdisciplinary. I will also train in Isadora Duncan technique and complete a large arc of work that has spanned two decades. In 2016 and 2017 I will finish a triptych of plays that explore the possibilities of bilingual staging practices as well as integration of dance and text.  The project at the center of this research is “Dancing on the Edge” a new play about American dancer Isadora Duncan and her tumultuous marriage to Russian poet Sergei Esenin.  The Talle Fund award will  help me to complete my practical research on Isadora Duncan’s dance philosophy and repertory through intensive training with master teacher Jeanne Bresciani of the Isadora Duncan International Institute in NY and produce a final workshop of the script with playwright Adam Kraar in preparation for the full premiere at a major Minneapolis theatre in May 2017.”

Professor Katherine Hayes (anthropology) for A Carceral Landscape? Re-interpreting the place and material culture of Historic Fort Snelling through the lens of incarceration
“With this project I propose to challenge the dominant American narratives of inclusive identity and freedom of opportunity embedded in the public interpretation of Historic Fort Snelling by bringing an archaeological perspective on processes of exclusion within its history. Using material culture and landscape as evidence of experience poorly captured in archives, I will examine three specific contexts of incarceration or exclusion: the 1862‐3 Dakota prison camp, a late 19th century military prison, and the environs of the Military Intelligence School during World War II. How have historic discourses on inclusion and exclusion been manifested in bodily and landscape restrictions, at different times and with different populations? And how can these difficult histories get translated into public interpretation in a way that is relevant to contemporary discussions of diversity and inclusion?”

Professor Mai Na Lee (history) for The Hmong Kingdom at Dragon Capital (Long Cheng): Vang Pao’s Alliance with the CIA
“Between 1961-75, Long Cheng (Looj Ceeb) emerged as a political space in northeastern Laos with a bustling airstrip that handled the second busiest air traffic in Indochina. This study examines the origin and development of Hmong leader General Vang Pao’s alliance with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the emergence of Long Cheng as a political space and an autonomous area controlled by the Hmong. I argue that Vang Pao’s influence over the Hmong population largely rests with his ability to maneuver the CIA and the Lao monarchy for Hmong autonomy. Vang successfully creates systems of political, social, and economic control that ensures his success as a powerful warlord, but as the Vietnam War places the United States on the losing side, Vang Pao’s power waned until he was forced into exile in May 1975.”

Professor Seth Lewis (journalism & mass communication) for Big Data, Algorithms, and the Rise of Automated Journalism
“Big data and algorithms increasingly shape what we see and experience online. Among these developments is the growth of automated journalism, or news stories produced not by human journalists but by machines. This raises questions about the social role of journalism as a longstanding facilitator of public knowledge. What does automated journalism mean for human labor and journalistic authority, as well as for news quality, transparency, and accountability? This project explores automated journalism both conceptually and empirically by taking a “sociology of automation” approach—that is, being concerned with the sociocultural, organizational, technological, economic, and ethical dimensions of this phenomenon. Methodologically, this means (1) developing heuristics for interpreting the role(s) of algorithms and automation in news production, and (2) examining key research questions through a series of qualitative interviews and case studies, both at news organizations that rely on automation and at technology organizations that provide algorithms for automation.”

Professor Joshua Page (sociology) for American Bail: Extraction and Management at the Boundary of State and Market
“Combining ethnography, interviews, and statistical analysis, this study will detail the inner-workings of private bail; delineate factors that shape bail operations; and outline the consequences of private bail for defendants, bail employees, the legal system, and racial and class inequality. The United States is one of only two countries that permit for-profit bail. An estimated 14,000 bail agents nationwide secure the release of more than two million defendants annually. Bail agents have wide discretion when it comes to bailing out defendants. This discretionary power is critical because defendants who are unable to make bail have a much harder time navigating the criminal justice system. They are much
more likely to be convicted, receive a longer prison sentence, and have much less success in plea bargaining compared to similarly situated defendants. This study will contribute to pressing debates about the privatization of the legal system in particular and government more generally.”

Professor Matthias Rothe (German, Scandinavian & Dutch) for Staging Economy - Critique through Presentation in Brecht's Theater
Staging Economy follows the assertion that art can generate social knowledge rivaling that of economists. The project inquires into the strategies that theater employs to effect social change by staging such abstract objects as society, economy or capitalism. The core materials of my project are little-known and unstudied dramatic fragments by playwright and dramatic theorist Bertolt Brecht from the tumultuous 1920s, attempting to critically capture futures trading, real estate investments, the phenomenon of mass unemployment, and the like. These archives, properly restored, will attest to a “struggle for presentation” in which the development of new artistic forms and of economic knowledge become mutually constitutive. Ultimately resulting in a monograph, the research for Staging Economy takes place through a series of collaborative, interdependent, and multidisciplinary activities, whose international and collective structure draws from Brecht’s own practices.”

Professor Scott St. George (geography, environment and society) for The long view on drought in Nepal
“Because measurements of drought and river flow in Nepal span only the last few decades, it is extraordinarily difficult to determine how the nation’s water resources will be affected by future climate change. I propose to evaluate the causes and history of drought in Nepal by combining information from ancient trees with state-of-the-art climate simulations. Our team will collect a new network of tree ring records from the dry forests of eastern Nepal and use these data to generate estimates of past rainfall and river flow. We will also produce independent estimates of pre-historic drought from simulations produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. By combining these two types of climate evidence, we will be able to understand how drought in Nepal is connected to global climate change and help managers and planners to better anticipate future challenges to its water resources.”

Professor Michael Wilson (anthropology) for Chimpanzee dialects? Testing whether chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania have group-specific calls
“Vocal learning is central to human language but rare among other primates. An intriguing example of vocal learning in our evolutionary cousins involves dialects in chimpanzee “pant-hoot” calls: group-specific acoustic features that identify their group membership. The existence of such dialects suggests that chimpanzees have some capacity for vocal learning. While chimpanzee dialects are thus of considerable interest for researchers interested in the evolution of language, important gaps remain in our understanding. In this project, I seek to fill those gaps by recording pant-hoots from two neighboring communities of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. My team will record and analyze the pant-hoots of male chimpanzees from the Mitumba and Kasekela chimpanzee communities to assess the extent to which these calls reflect individual identity versus group membership. These recordings also will contribute to a study of vocal learning in calls recorded from Kasekela over 46 years (1972-2017).”

The Talle Faculty Research Fund represents a critical investment in the future of CLA. With this fund the College is able to recognize and invest in the next generation of faculty who are poised to lead CLA as it pursues greater heights of excellence and who are engaging in new lines of research and creative activity that will shape their fields and the intersection of fields.

Funded by a generous gift from Ken and Janet Talle, this award will provide $300,000 of research support each year over five years, with about 8-10 recently promoted associate professors annually receiving an award.